Kamakaze Attack off Samar
Steaming 60 miles east of Samar before dawn 25 October, Taffy 3 launched the day's initial air strikes. It was soon determined that a large Japanese fleet comprised of four battleships, eight cruisers, and 12 destroyers was approaching from the northwest. The Japanese force opened fire on Taffy 3 when within gun range. So began the Battle off Samar. Out numbered and outgunned, the relatively slow ships of Taffy 3 seemed fated for disaster, but they defied the odds and accepted the challenge. St. Lo despite fire from enemy cruisers, launched her planes ordering the pilots to attack the Japanese task force and proceed to Leyte, to rearm and refuel. As salvos fell increasingly nearer to St. Lo, her planes continued to strike the enemy force with bombs, rockets, and gunfire, inflicting heavy damage on the closing ships. By 0800, the enemy cruisers, had, closed within 18,000 yards of the US force. St. Lo responded to their salvos with rapid fire from her single 5-inch gun. At 0830, five enemy destroyers steamed over the horizon. The closing ships opened fire from 14,500 yards, and, as screening ships engaged the cruisers and laid down concealing smoke, St. Lo shifted her fire and traded shots with the guns of Japanese destroyers. Many salvos exploded close aboard or passed directly overhead. Under heavy attack from the air and harassed by incessant fire from US destroyers and destroyer escorts, the enemy cruisers broke off action and turned northward at 0920. At 0915, the enemy destroyers, launched a torpedo attack from 10,500 yards. As the torpedoes approached the escort carriers, they slowed down. An Avenger torpedo-bomber from ST. LO strafed and exploded two approaching torpedoes and a shell from her 5-inch gun deflected a third away from her stern. As the enemy ships fired parting salvos and reversed course northward, St. LO scored a direct hit amidships on a retreating destroyer. Five minutes later, she ceased fire and retired southward with the surviving ships of Taffy 3. At 1050, the task unit came under a concentrated air attack, and during the 40 minute battle with enemy suicide planes, all escort carriers but Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70) were damaged. One plane crashed through St. Lo's flight deck at 1051, and exploded her torpedo and bomb magazine, mortally wounding the gallant carrier. St. Lo was engulfed in flame and sank half an hour later, leaving a cloud of dense black smoke to mark her watery grave.